Mood swings, irritability, decreased learning capacity and reduced short-term memory, just are a few side effects of heavy sugar consumption in children according to NHS studies.
In addition, sugary drinks are one of the key contributors to obesity in children, a matter that is becoming ever more an issue. According to documentation released by the NHS in 2012, almost 25 percent of children in the UK are classed as obese.
Over the years, fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola and Fanta have borne the brunt of an ongoing argument linking their high sugar content to the issues above. While the high amount of sugar in these drinks is undoubtedly an issue, they aren’t the worst. Many drinks claiming to be healthy, a lot aimed specifically at children, have just as high and in some cases higher sugar content than their fizzy rivals.
One such drink is Innocent Kids Smoothies. Aimed specifically at children, a 180ml serving of the Apples and Blackcurrant smoothie for kids contains 22g of sugar, that is 26% of a childs recommended daily allowance, a staggering amount when compared to the 13.8g of sugar in a 200ml serving of Fanta.
What is more worrying is that most parents are oblivious to the content of the drinks they are giving to their children on a daily basis. Jane Shaw, a mother of two from Leeds had never bothered to check the contents even though her children drink smoothies regularly, she said, “I just assumed they were good for my kids, looking at the packaging and how they are advertised, you would think they would be healthy”.
In a recent survey of 50 parents conducted by students at Leeds Metropolitan University, 80 percent said they trust the packaging and assumed what they were giving to their children was good for their health. 60 percent believe the packaging and marketing for the drinks is misleading and should be clearer as to what is in them. Mark Truman, a 39 year old father of two says he will think twice about what he buys in the future, “I have to admit, I was fooled by the packaging, with the design and the name, I thought it would be good for my kids. I don’t think it will put me off buying it entirely, but they won’t be drinking it every day from now on”.
Ellie Maddock, 35 is a nurse that has worked for the NHS for 10 years. She knows the effect that sugary drinks can have on her children, even if they are masquerading as a healthy beverage. “The problems aren’t just limited to behavioural issues, it has been shown that excessively high sugar consumption can reduce the immune systems ability to fight off illnesses”.
Another issue with these drinks is the marketing, while there are benefits to drinking them, like the high fruit content, parents are being fooled into believing this is the only factor by clever advertising.
“This recipe is almost as refreshing as eating orange segments on a hot summer’s day whilst doing the surprised hosepipe dance and trying not to get cross with your dad. And with a portion of fruit in every carton and no added rubbish whatsoever, it tastes good, does you good and stops water being boring.” This quote, directly from the Innocent website, along with the labelling of their kids juicy drinks clearly shows that it is marketed at children. However, the nutritional information on the Innocent website displays the recommended daily allowances as that of an adults. This can make the information more misleading, as an adults recommended daily allowance of sugar is much higher than that of a child. When questioned about this Innocent simply wrote it off as a typo, Clemmie, a spokesperson for innocent said, “Oops. This is actually a typo on our website, the heading should say ‘200ml as a % of a child’s Guideline Daily Amount’. Thank you for pointing it out – we’re getting that fixed right away”. This misinformation has since been changed.
However, when questioned numerous times about the nutritional content of their kids smoothies and juicy drinks, they refused to comment. While this may not be an admission of guilt, it does raise questions about whether their drinks are as healthy as they make them out to be.
Other kids fruit drinks with a high sugar content include, ‘Minute Maid Kids’ juices and Tropicana ‘Healthy Kids’ orange juice both with 24g of sugar per 240ml serving. It isn’t necessary to cut these drinks out from your childs diet entirely, Ellie Maddock thinks they are also beneficial, she says, “They can be a good thing, but in moderation. They have a high fruit content and as such contain a lot of vitamins. Just be careful of how regularly you are allowing your children to drink them. If they are thirsty, water is just as refreshing without all the additives you get in a lot of fruit drinks”.